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Thread: Can employers legally refuse to allow temporary light duty?

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  1. #1
    Join Date
    Jan 2008

    Can employers legally refuse to allow temporary light duty?

    Hi all,

    I am a nurse in a moderate-sized hospital within a larger community-bases health care system. I had an extensive revision surgery 12 weeks ago for pseudoarthrosis/broken rods in my lumbar. I have been off work on FMLA since surgery, and today is the last day of my FMLA. I was due to return to work tomorrow. I saw my surgeon Tuesday, and he thinks it best if I return to work on limited duty, meaning no lifting, no pushing beds, and no wearing a lead apron (I work in invasive cardiology where we do fluoro procedures all day long).

    Unfortunately, my employer and it's HR department says it does not allow workers to return to work on any type of light duty--they want me to return with no restrictions. When I had my original fusion surgery 18 months ago, they did allow me to return for 3 months on the same restrictions I am given now. I was told they were making a special exception for me because I am a very valuable employee in the department, and because I could still make an active contribution to the work group by doing primarily seated work.

    I took my return to work note to HR on Tuesday after my appointment. They called yesterday to schedule a meeting for Friday (the day I am due back at work) with the Director of HR and the Director of my department (not my immediate supervisor but the big boss). Now this same type of meeting occurred last time I was allowed to return on restrictions, but I am very nervous now because no one will tell me anything. They will not tell me if I am staying for the work day Friday (doesn't sound like it). My immediate supervisor tells me he can not give me any information. This all makes me think it's going to be bad news. I get the feeling they will say well, we made an exception once for you, we can't do it again.

    I am totally freaked out about this, and wondering if anyone has any suggestions or advice. Can they deny my light duty after it was allowed the year before? Are there any laws protecting workers in this regard? I am the income-earner in our family, and this unplanned financial burden has been disastrous for us. I have no disability or other income source. Our savings is running low and I definitely can not afford to stay off another 3 months.
    Last edited by leahdragonfly; 04-26-2012 at 10:06 AM.
    Gayle, age 50
    Oct 2010 fusion T8-sacrum w/ pelvic fixation
    Feb 2012 lumbar revision for broken rods @ L2-3-4
    Sept 2015 major lumbar A/P revision for broken rods @ L5-S1

    mom of Leah, 15 y/o, Diagnosed '08 with 26* T JIS (age 6)
    2010 VBS Dr Luhmann Shriners St Louis
    2017 curves stable/skeletely mature

    also mom of Torrey, 12 y/o son, 16* T, stable

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